City, Vernon Winter Carnival open the books on money-losing concert to provide clarity on fees

Both sides open the books

The City of Vernon is spilling the beans on fees it charged to put on the Reklaws concert at Kal Tire Place during Vernon Winter Carnival.

The fact the carnival society lost $14,000 on the event despite it being almost sold out has become a focal point of local user groups' contention that high rental fees are discouraging events from happening in Vernon.

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce even went so far as to say the city has "abandoned" non-profit groups in deciding to up its rental rates by 5 per cent in the new year.

Documents from council's committee of the whole meeting this week reveal the city's costs behind the scenes and its support of carnival.

"From an operational perspective, the event was considered a success," the city said in a report to council, noting approximately 3,000 people attended.

"For an event of this size and scope to take place at Kal Tire Place, there are expenses to recreation services that go beyond base facility rental costs. These additional expenses include things such as: additional staff set up and take down time; additional staff time to provide support during the event; additional expenses to electricity; increased garbage removal; and an increased use of paper/disposable product supplies."

The city's manual of fees and charges calls for a concert rental fee of $3,061 or 15 per cent of ticket sales to a cap of $10,570, which is what carnival paid. Carnival was given a $900 discount on the base rate, but that was negated when tickets sales reached the cap value. After that, all proceeds went to carnival.

The city billed carnival for the following additional fees:

  • Security $3,243.29*
  • Backdrop rigging $250.00
  • Sound and lighting rigging: $2,720.00*
  • Floor conversion $1,890.00
  • Glass removal and reinstallation: $1,295.00
  • Electrical tie in: $250.00
  • Stage set up: $630.00
  • Ticket surcharge ($1 per ticket sold): $2,729.00

The security and rigging setup were 'flow-through' expenses that the city paid on behalf of VWC, but were not part of the facility or operational costs, the city said. That leaves a bill of $17,613.71.

City spokesperson Christy Poirier explains flow-through expenses are charges the city has paid on behalf of a facility renter for an event, which are then billed to the renter for reimbursement.

These were billed to Vernon Winter Carnival at the same rate as they were charged to the city.

The city goes on to estimate carnival brought in $136,450 in revenue after fees, but the carnival society said that leaves out major expenses such as actually paying the performers, marketing the event, sound equipment provision and more.

Carnival executive director Kris Fuller said while the city's numbers are "close," the city also left out $10,000 in revenue and a similar amount in costs.

"The concert cost us $139,000 to put on, and we drew $125,000 in revenue," Fuller said.

Carnival's breakdown of costs includes $61,946.19 to hire performers the Reklaws, Ashley Cooke, Michael Daniels, and a DJ.

Sound equipment cost a further $33,391.20, with marketing costing $15,224.25, promotional materials such as lanyards and shuttles $2,635.14, and miscellaneous expenses $140.77.

Carnival previously said it paid the city $27,000 in total.

Poirier says with the ticket surcharge and flow-through expenses included, the total came to approximately $24,700.

The city noted the additional support given to carnival throughout the year, including in-kind marketing and event sponsorship totalling $17,000 annually, as well as $12,300 in operational support for 2023.

The city said carnival received a $125,000 PacifiCan grant to help pay for the concert, but carnival says that was for new events, not specifically the concert, and funded several activities.

Carnival did not address the grant in responding to the release of the city documents.

Carnival has said had it been able to take in revenue from liquor sales at the event, it would have put the concert in the black. However, the city holds the liquor licence for the building.

It's not known how much the city realized in liquor sales during the concert, but with a crowd of 3,000, it's safe to assume the figure was significant.

Fuller said carnival is grateful for the city's support, and its partnership "has been pivotal in the success of our cherished annual event since its inception in 1961."

"We acknowledge the delicate balance we must strike between cost, fees, and free events," she said, adding "carnival has long been committed to ensuring that the entire community can participate in and enjoy the festivities" by keeping ticket prices low and many events free.

"We are in a place where two things are true — we are grateful for the city's support of Vernon Winter Carnival and at the same time, we find the cost of hosting big events a hurdle. We have seen other organizations such as the Vernon Farmers Market, Friends of the Library and more share their concerns about fees in our city," Fuller said.

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